Worst & Best of Times: Arrogance & Resistance

“It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.

  (Slightly emended from Charles Dickens, A Tale Of Two Cities.)

The worst danger facing the world today is the arrogance of powerful men and institutions toward the warp and woof of human communities and the weave of life-forms on our planet.

The best hope in the world today comes from the acts we see at the very same time, of courageous and creative resistance to these arrogant brutalities. The Shalom Center invites you to take part in Resistance actions this fall;  see the "Take Action" entry below.

The struggle between Arrogance and Resistance is emerging in many different arenas: Arrogance in the behavior of the IMF president toward a hotel chamber maid; Resistance in her response. Arrogance in the efforts of Wisconsin's governor to smash unions; Resistance from 100,00 teachers, nurses, firefighters in Madison and many thousands elsewhere. Arrogance in the campaign to destroy Medicare; Resistance from voters in Upstate New York. Some quick brush strokes to depict this epic struggle: --  –

ARROGANCE: Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s behavior toward a young immigrant hotel housekeeper.

Until there is a criminal trial, we must preserve the presumption of DSK's legal innocence. But suppose his lawyer’s defense were to turn out to be true, that the sex act he secured was “consensual.” Even on that  basis -- unlikely but barely possible --  this “consent” would have come from someone who seemed almost powerless when confronted with an immensely wealthy and powerful official. Given what we know so far, it seems much more probable that DSK committed forcible rape. Either way, immense arrogance. 

YET, RESISTANCE  -- The hotel housekeeper, vulnerable though she was,  cried out at once.  She should have won much more support and empathy from others joining her resistance. For even if we await a trial to settle the question of outright rape, there remains the reality of overwhelming power. That is an ethical, not a legal, matter. Where is an ethical response from a community that prides itself on concern for ethics and justice?  DSK and his wife have emblazoned their Jewishness upon French politics and culture. Yet I have looked in vain for any “mainstream” Jewish organization that has condemned DSK’s behavior --  whether it was a domineering effort to win a make-believe “consent,” or forcible rape. 

ARROGANCE: Big Oil’s contemptuous dismissal as “un-American” of proposals to end the multibillion-dollar subsidies they now receive, in the light of their stratospheric-billion-dollar profits.

MORE ARROGANCE: President Obama’s willingness to put human and other life-forms on the American coasts and heartland at great risk by authorizing deep-sea oil-well drilling, even after the BP disaster in the Gulf, and by supporting old and new nuclear energy plants, even though many experts are now reporting that nuclear “regulators” have ignored or condoned  dangers in US plants very similar to the Fukuyama Daiichi plants. 

YET, RESISTANCE -- Growing numbers of Americans are using nonviolent civil disobedience to protect the Earth against the modern pharaohs that are bringing plagues upon it, and Bill McKibben and 350.org are calling for thousands of climate-healing actions around the globe, on September 24. 

ARROGANCE: Wisconsin Governor Walker’s insistence on a new law destroying the ability of public-workers unions to bargain collectively, and providing for unregulated, unsupervised, unnegotiated  sell-offs of public land to the corporate cronies who paid to elect him.

YET, RESISTANCE: One hundred thousand workers, students, teachers, and other folks created massive demonstrations in Madison to challenge Walker, and all around the country tens of thousands rallied to support them and each other. 

ARROGANCE: Prime Minister Netanyahu sneering at and deliberately misstating President Obama’s formula of “1967 boundaries with mutually agreed land swaps” as the basic formula for peace, and, more important, continuing to destroy Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem to replace them with Jewish settlers. Arrogance in speech, brutality in action.

YET, RESISTANCE --  Leaders of Israeli military, security, and intellectual life have spoken up again for the first time in years to call for a true two-state peace agreement; and tens of thousands of Palestinians, almost all of them behaving nonviolently,  have rallied near Israel’s borders to reassert Palestinian dignity.

AND MORE RESISTANCE:   Obama struck back against being insulted and demeaned -– and more important, thousands of Americans made clear  they too believe in a peace settlement based on the 1967 boundaries with mutually agreed land swaps.

ARROGANCE: An extremely wealthy and power-connected New York businessman, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, tried to shame and delegimatize one of America’s great artists, and anyone else who like him would speak up to criticize the Israeli government. 

YET, RESISTANCE: Artists, students, professors, and peace-committed Jewish groups spoke up to demand the restoration of Tony Kushner’s honorary doctorate – and won!

It is indeed the worst of times. Yet – we ourselves can make it the best of times. 

Will we resist this arrogance –-- we who are heirs of Moses, Miriam, and Aaron, of Akiba and Bruriah, of Jesus and Mary Magdalen, of Muhammad and Fatima, of Molly Pitcher and Tom Paine, of Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass,  of Martin Luther King and Fannie Lou Hamer, of Henry David Thoreau and Judi Bari, of Harvey Milk and Adrienne Rich --  

Will we resist? 

Will we help to create the new communities that can go beyond the arrrogance of these top-down power centers?

I will send you information on three occasions this fall when we could.

With blessings on your own work toward wholeness and community –Arthur


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